Dog Manual

Lesson One - Heeling On The Leash

HEELING means that the dog accompanies his guide, walking at the guide's left side. All too often we find that the novice guide follows after the dog, allowing himself to be pulled here, there or wherever the dog wills to go. That habit of letting the dog take the lead will have to be broken and the dog taught to HEEL, in other words, to follow the guide with no pulling or straining at the leash.

Fasten to the dog's collar, (a training collar if necessary) a good, strong leash of about three feet in length. A leash longer than three feet would give the dog more liberty which is exactly what we wish to avoid. The dog will be taught to follow closely at the left side, therefore the long leash would prove a handicap by allowing too much freedom of movement. This would tend to confuse him with regard to the use of those signs and signals which later on replace verbal orders.

Moreover, the liberty permitted by the extra long leash enables the dog to veer to the right or the left, in front or perhaps suddenly behind the guide; and before the animal can be drawn back to position, he may have become tangled up with someone approaching from the opposite direction. Or he may have wound himself around a tree or a post, all of which can be successfully prevented by the use of the short, three-foot leash.

Considering the fact that as training advances, the leash will be controlled by the left hand alone, it should be held only for the purpose of guidance. It is therefore quite important that we handle it properly. Correct handling of the leash while teaching the HEEL exercise will have considerable bearing on the success of the exercises to follow. So by all means let me advise the guide to follow these instructions to the letter.


The  Sign—a   light   slap   given   by   the guide's left hand against his left leg.

At the command HEEL, the dog should follow as closely as possible, with slack leash, at the left side of the guide, the dog's shoulder being close to the guide's left knee.

Hold the leash in the right hand, with the hand dropped at the side. With the left hand, give SIGN, then grasp the leash near the collar, holding the hand close to the left side, the grip loose so that the hand may be slipped back and forth cither to shorten or to lengthen the leash as may be necessary. Study the illustration below. Starting off at a fast pace, though not a run, and keeping the dog's head near the knee, utter the command HEEL at intervals. Prolong the sound as indicated, and speak distinctly. What is the immediate reaction? The dog will attempt to pull away, to forge ahead, stop, pull backwards or to one side. Or possibly he will not walk at all.

Heeling—The correct starting position.

THE CORRECTION: Reactions such as those just mentioned are usually due to the fact that the guide gives the dog too much leash, or that he changes the position of his hands and arms. The left hand and arm must be held quite stiff and, if the dog is large, the hand should be near the collar. If on the other hand, the dog is small, then the hand may be farther away from the collar.

But step off quickly and do not stop even when the dog resists. Just continue to walk, carrying him along with you. Don't stop. Don't look behind you. Don't look at the dog. He will follow as long as you are moving. You can tell well enough whether he is close beside you as he should be. Should he balk or try to forge ahead, shorten your hold upon the leash in order to keep him from falling behind or from pulling ahead. It need not disturb you if he does develop these traits, just keep on going. Very shortly he will learn that he is much more comfortable if he stops pulling and follows amicably.

Here is another method that may prove useful. If the dog lags too far behind, change the leash to the right hand, at the same time keeping him at your left side. Let the leash drop ever so slightly in front of you so that your every step will cause a jerk on the collar, reminding the dog that, if he would avoid this self-inflicted punishment, he must keep up with his guide. If he walks too rapidly or pulls forward, the identical method may be used except that in this case the leash is passed behind the guide instead of in front of him.

Practise this lesson for about ten minutes when first you start out, and use right and left turns occasionally, at each turn commanding HEEL to attract the dog's attention.  From the very beginning, these exercises should be executed at a rapid pace in order to keep the dog in a peppy condition. If the guide is slow-gaited, easy going, the dog will reflect his attitude and never be a snappy worker. No one likes to see a dog respond to commands in a sleepy sort of way, and at field trials and obedience tests the peppy dog will invariably win over the slow, more deliberate performer. Let me repeat, then; if the guide would have a snappy worker under his hand, he must put snap into his own actions.

Heeling—The dog close to the guide's left side. 

Heeling on a loose leash.
Another way in which a dog may be kept close to the guide's side when passing a tree or a post is to lead him right up to it. He will try to go around it only to find himself trapped. Stop for a moment and let him wiggle himself out of his predicament but on no occasion go back to him. Next time he will stay close beside his guide and make no attempt to deviate from his course.

Now this is of particular importance: Always remember to repeat the command, HEEL from time to time, according to the character of the dog. Should he react slowly or give evidence of fear, issue the command in a voice designed to encourage, to pep him up. Add to the command a few, shall we say rousing words, such as "That's fine!". . ."That's it!" or something of the kind. On the other hand, if he starts off in high strung fashion, as it were, over-loaded with electricity make an effort to quiet him down to prevent too much pulling. Slow down your pace, use your right hand at the height of the left elbow and at the same time give the command HEEL, slowly.

The dog is on the wrong side.  He should be close at the guide's left.

The leash is too long; right hand gives the sign Down.

The leash is too short and the dog is pulling.
Personally, I like a peppy dog much better than a slow one; with him, I believe more satisfactory results can be obtained. And keep in mind that previously mentioned admonishment of the stiff arm, to wit, if the dog jumps up on his guide, use  he stiff arm to hold him down.